JAHN (the firm formerly known as Murphy/Jahn) has projects all over the world, but a tower project announced Thursday by Crain’s Chicago Business‘ Dennis Rodkin is on a site in the Chicago-based firm’s backyard.
Though not confirmed by the architects, news of a possible JAHN project at 1000 South Michigan Avenue (now a surface parking lot) has some local design and real estate observers abuzz. Principal Helmut Jahn is known around the world for highly engineered, structurally expressive towers and complexes that prize performance over prettiness.
The 75-year-old German-American has earned numerous lifetime achievement awards and other accolades, and his high profile would likely lend some “starchitect” factor to any building that his firm might deliver on the South Loop site. His protege Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido, with whom he co-runs the firm, is also sought-after for designs like Las Vegas’ Veer Towers, which boast bright yellow, fritted glass facades and an unusual leaning profile.
An area plan currently has a height limit of 35 stories, but Rodkin quotes Dennis McLendon, development and planning director of community group South Loop Neighbors, who thinks that won’t apply in the event that the new project is confirmed:
“I don’t have a lot of confidence that the current plan commission would observe a plan that was adopted back in 2004,” he said.
Now a surface parking lot, the site is one of only two gaps in the continuous 1.3-mile cliff wall along the west side of Michigan Avenue between Randolph Street and Roosevelt Road. In the early-2000s condo boom, it was the proposed site of a 40-story condominium tower, but developer Warren Barr was hit with a foreclosure suit and lost the property to First American Bank, which still owns it. First American representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
If it happens, the project would hardly be the firm’s first in their hometown. JAHN (mostly under their prior moniker, Murphy/Jahn) designed the United Airlines terminal at O’Hare and the Ogilvie Metra station downtown, as well as the State of Illinois Center (the Thompson Center), 600 N. Fairbanks, 1 S. Wacker Dr., and others. Yet lately most of the firm’s high-profile work has been abroad.